THE rising cost of dying means many people cannot afford to bury their dead, it was claimed today, as calculations showed the cost of a basic funeral in Edinburgh was more than £4000.
A report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said the costs of burials and cremations in the Capital were the second highest in the country.
It urged the Scottish Government to consider controlling charges for burial plots, interment fees and cremation fees charged by local authorities and private crematoriums.
The report said the average cost of a simple funeral in Scotland had increased by seven per cent year-on-year since 2004, against a background of falling household incomes and a cut in the emergency assistance.
It claimed some families had been left unable to bury their deceased at all.
CAS highlighted the huge variation in costs from one area to another. The cost of a lair and interment in Edinburgh, at £2110, is more than double that in any of the other Lothian authorities. East Dunbartonshire had the highest lair and interment charges at £2716.50, while nearby East Renfrewshire had the lowest on the mainland at £715. Only Orkney was cheaper at £680.
On top of these costs, families face an average bill of £1900 for the most basic of funerals – not including flowers, funeral cars, a death notice or the costs of a wake.
CAS head of policy Susan McPhee said: “People who have never organised a funeral are often shocked at how expensive it is. There are charges for the grave site, as well as fees to the undertakers, the cost of the coffin and so on.
“These high costs come at a time when many families are struggling just to feed their families and keep their homes, so a sudden bill of over £3000 can be devastating. To make matters worse, the special assistance scheme that people have been able to claim in the past has been squeezed of resources, so that 50 per cent of applications are now being turned down.”
Mark Porteous, of Edinburgh-based Porteous Independent Funeral Directors, said many people had funeral plans or insurance policies in place to help meet costs, but not everyone.
He called for on the government to review the £700 bereavement payment it made through the Department of Work and Pensions to people on benefits and said councils should find a way of capping their charges.
He said: “People are struggling. Funeral costs have increased significantly over the years and the payment the government makes doesn’t take into account the way local authority charges have increased. There is a real problem in the huge discrepancy between what the government pays out and what local authorities charge.
“You cannot get a funeral for £700 – and that payment has not increased for ten or 15 years.”
He said he sometimes reduced fees to help struggling families.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council does not make any profit from funerals and re-invests the monies into improving the service and maintaining 40 cemeteries. With 2500 cremations and 350 burials taking place in the capital each year, we invested almost £2 million in bereavement services last year, with further investment planned for 2014-15.”